When you were a kid you had at least two pair of shoes. One pair was your “good” one your mother referred to as your “dress shoes,” while the other pair was your “everyday” shoes, most probably of athletic nature. These shoes, specially designed for sporting activities, were given the generic name “athletic shoes,” which is still considered a category that consists of running, basketball and tennis footwear. Originally introduced as part of the sporting apparel, athletic shoes are now worn as part of a casual look. Going for a walk, running across the shore, or playing outdoor games, are examples of the instances that people of all ages select to wear them. But how did all begin and why do more and more different types of athletic shoes being produced?
It is much more than the supply and demand curve, but it all comes down to that. Modern sneakers have beginnings in various sports shoes. One ancestor is the expensive British upper-class footwear of the late 1800s, used for lawn tennis, cricket, croquet, and at the beach. While at the turn of the twentieth century, football and baseball players wore essentially the same shoe type as before, the leather high-topped lace-ups with leather soles and cleats, the need to have footwear that provided a good grip onto the ground was the reason why a variety of lightweight shoes were introduced. Special shoes that would allow runners to move and lead to positive results, like increasing their speed and thus, their competitiveness, were ordered. Thus, as the need for greater speed increased, so did the athletic shoes’ number and styles. By refining and improving the shoes’ traction, sportswear companies created a subcategory in sports apparel; the shoemaking industry that is now worth billions. The sneakers’ demand emerged as athletes drew spectators to games and scientists invented new ways to accelerate human limits and improve athletes’ scores.
The dictionary defines the athletic shoe or sneaker as “a sports shoe usually made of canvas and having soft rubber soles; also called tennis shoe.” As today, uppers can be of leather, nylon, canvas, plastic, or combinations of these, and the shoe bottom surface has come to include any type of natural or synthetic rubber soles, tennis shoes are not equivalent to any other type of athletic shoe types. Sure, the term “tennis shoes” has become a generic term for athletic shoes, but this should not give the wrong impression to people that all sports shoes are the same or that one should wear them interchangeably regardless of the game/sport played. Running shoes on a tennis court, for example, are a sprained or broken ankle waiting to happen. Running shoes are built with a thick, soft heel to maximize cushioning for straight-forward, heel-to-toe foot impacts. Playing tennis is all about sudden starts and stops, as well as moving quickly from side to side. The trouble is that, during extreme stopping, cornering, and pivoting, if the sneaker’s outsole is too rigid, the tennis player loses contact with the playing surface, which results in a loss of footing. In addition, since runners do not usually move sharply sideways, while “on the run,” the running shoe sole is totally unsuitable for the sideways movements a tennis player makes.